Vader, the Cloquet Police Department's K-9 narcotics detection dog, wags his tail and jumps excitedly when people walk into the room. The lovable 2-year-old British black Labrador retriever looks like a smaller version of the more common black Lab.
His handler is Laci Silgjord, and the bond between the two is obvious. They went through training together, work together and go home together at the end of the day.
“He is a sweet boy and very smart,” Silgjord said.
Silgjord and Vader help other agencies upon request because not all agencies have a K-9.
“Vader is always eager to come to work,” Silgjord said.
He is mainly utilized by the department at traffic stops and residences after a search warrant has been issued. There are many hiding places for drugs in houses and Vader's nose efficiently helps speed up the search.
“There are drugs in all forms in our community,” Silgjord said.
Silgjord brought Vader to the Minnesota Correctional Facility during a lockdown to search for drugs hidden by prisoners earlier this year.
It’s hard to tell who enjoys the community outreach events more — Silgjord and Vader or the kids who are excited to see the dog.
They have attended events at the Cloquet Public Library, school events, Early Childhood Family Education and National Night Out where they interact with children and adults who are excited to see the friendly dog.
They receive monthly training and annual certification. A Hero K-9 grant allowed Silgjord to outfit her vehicle with a special kennel to keep Vader safe. The vehicle also contains a temperature monitoring system to ensure Vader doesn't overheat in the vehicle. Other gear for him includes a bulletproof vest, trauma kit and Narcan, a medication used to treat suspected opioid overdoses.
When Silgjord finishes her 12-hour shifts, Vader goes home with her. Silgjord is married and has children, and they consider Vader part of the family. Her husband is a K-9 officer from St. Louis County and also brings his dog home.